CHICAGO WOLVES (18-9-3-1) AT ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (15-11-2-4)
WE’RE GOING STREAKING!
At this time last season, the Chicago Wolves were in the midst of a franchise-record-tying 14-game point streak. During that run from Dec. 9 to Jan. 6 when the Wolves posted a 12-0-1-1 record, they outscored their opponents 52-30. That was pretty good.
This year’s Wolves would love to match that 14-game point streak. For now, though, Rocky Thompson’s crew rides a nine-game streak that features eight wins and an overtime loss to Rockford on Dec. 21. But remember how it took last year’s group 14 games to earn that plus-22 goal differential? This year’s team has outscored foes 39-18 during its nine-game run.
More impressively, the Wolves have played the last three games without the AHL’s scoring leader as Brandon Pirri (17 goals, 24 assists) has been aiding the Vegas Golden Knights — and even delivered the game-winning goal in Thursday’s 2-1 win over Colorado. The Wolves also have played the last five games without the AHL’s top-scoring rookie defenseman as Erik Brännström has been captaining Sweden’s U20 team in the World Junior Championship.
EVERYONE WANTS WHAT WE HAVE
The Wolves took over first place in the Central Division with their 4-1 win over Milwaukee on Wednesday, but the race is just as close as it was before the holiday break.
The Wolves (40 points, .645) have a one-point edge over the Iowa Wild (39 points, .629) and are two points clear of the Grand Rapids Griffins (38 points, .594) and the Milwaukee Admirals (38 points, .576). The Wolves are four points ahead of Rockford (36 points, .563) heading into this weekend’s two-game series with the IceHogs.
Brännström leads the swedes
Defenseman Erik Brännström scored two power-play goals on Wednesday for Team Sweden, lifting the Swedes over Finland 2-1 on the opening day of the World Junior Championship. He added another PPG in Thursday’s 5-2 win over Slovakia. Captaining the squad, Brännström helped Sweden extend its winning streak in the preliminary round of the tournament to 46 straight games.
During his winning streak that began with a 32-save shutout on Dec. 8 at Rockford, goaltender Oscar Dansk owns a 5-0-0 record with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .966 save percentage. Dansk’s longest winning streak with the Wolves came last season when he reeled off seven wins in a row from Feb. 15 to March 9. During that run, the 24-year-old Stockholm native posted a 2.26 GAA and a .925 save percentage.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: The Wolves have scored at least two goals in all 31 games this year, the only team in the AHL to do so. While this streak sets the franchise record for opening a season with 2+ goals, it only ranks second place on the franchise’s overall list. John Anderson’s 2006-07 team set the franchise mark by scoring 2+ in 36 consecutive games from Oct. 15, 2006 to Jan. 6, 2007. Of course, it helped to have Darren Haydar on the roster. Haydar set the AHL point streak record by recording at least one point in each of the Wolves’ first 39 games that year. It’s not a coincidence that Haydar’s streak and the team’s 2-plus goal streak ended on the same day (Jan. 9, 2007).
9: The Wolves have earned at least one point in the last nine games, going 8-0-1-0 for the longest current point streak in the league. The San Diego Gulls (4-0-0-2) are the closest to the Wolves with a six-game point streak. Syracuse owns the longest point streak this season with a 13-game run from Nov. 2 to Dec. 7.
10: Speaking of nice point streaks, Wolves alternate captain T.J. Tynan is in the middle of his career-high streak. The Orland Park, Illinois, native has delivered two goals and 10 assists during his 10-game run. Saturday’s 3-1 win over Milwaukee marked the first time in the streak that Tynan didn’t earn an assist. Earlier this season, Tynan enjoyed a six-game assist streak (Nov. 11-25) and a five-game assist streak (Oct. 24-Nov. 3).
22: The Wolves are outscoring opponents 47-25 in the first period this season, a 22-goal differential that is the largest among AHL teams in the opening frame. Bridgeport is the only AHL team in the same universe with a +12 margin during the first. The Wolves own a 15-4-3-0 record in the league-leading 22 games in which they have scored first and a 15-1-2-1 record when leading after the first period.
40: The Wolves sit at the top of the Central Division and Western Conference with 40 points. Through 31 games, the Wolves (18-9-3-1) are off to the franchise’s best start since John Anderson’s 2007-08 squad that started 23-7-1-0 on its way to the Calder Cup championship. During the 10 seasons between that team and this year’s squad, the Wolves averaged 34.3 points through 31 games.
354: If you’ve suited up for the Wolves, chances are better than 50/50 that you’ve also played in the National Hockey League. When goaltender Eddie Pasquale won his NHL debut Dec. 4 for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Detroit Red Wings, he became the 354th player (out of 616 Wolves all-time) who have competed for the Wolves and in the NHL. That 57.5 percent overall success rate is even higher among goaltenders. Of the 54 players who’ve tended the net for the Wolves over the years — starting with original goaltenders Ray LeBlanc and Wendell Young and continuing through current Wolves Max Lagace and Oscar Dansk — 38 boast NHL experience (70.4 percent).